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Amateur Hockey Talk 21 May 2017
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Amateur Hockey Talk 21 May 2017
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Reid Duke, the 33 goal scorer the Wild doesn't want

Posted by Pete5275 , 12 May 2016 · 1,795 views

Hockey NHL WHL Duke Wild Reid Duke OHL Brandon AHL Wheat Kings
Reid Duke, the 33 goal scorer the Wild doesn't want In 68 games Reid Duke had 33 goals and 29 assists for a total of 62 points this season for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. He is the 53rd highest scorer in the WHL and the 23rd highest goal scorer. But, when­ you go looking for highlight videos make sure you type “Reid Duke hockey” into your search bar unless you want to discover a magic the gathering player of the same name with a much larger public following.

Duke, 20, also has 8 goals and 15 assists in 20 playoff games this season. The Wheat Kings are one win away from earning the WHL title, thanks, in part, to an OT winner in game 3 from none other than Reid Duke. With numbers like this surely the Wild front office is ecstatic to have such a flourishing young scoring prospect on the horizon. What do we actually hear from the Wild about Duke? Crickets. Michael Russo of the Star Tribune says Duke is not on the “front burner” for the Wild and they’re mostly in a “wait and see” mode. If the Wild is unable or unwilling to sign Duke, he will reenter the NHL draft this coming year.

“Unable to sign” would mean Duke’s camp is asking for too much cash, maybe only for the sole reason of wanting to reenter the draft or to force his rights to be traded before the deadline. If that’s the case, I wish him the best and hopefully he never scores against the Wild. ‘Unwilling to sign,” on the other hand, would be much more befuddling. From what I’ve seen of Duke’s play, he often seems to find himself standing in the right spot for a puck to magically appear on his stick, and when that happens, he finishes it. Goal after goal this season came within a two-foot radius of the blue paint. He also has the skill to actually shoot the puck. His OT winner against Seattle in the WHL finals is no better example of exactly that. He receives the puck, changes the angle of his shooting lane, and finds the back of the net.

I should not go without mentioning he plays on a team with two of the top five scoring leaders in the WHL Jayce Hawryluk and Nolan Patrick (106 and 102 points, respectively). Historically, the WHL is a league of high scoring so one might think, well if it’s a scorer’s league, then we should be expecting Duke to put up these kinds of numbers. This is exactly my point. Finally, the Wild has a prospect that is doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and the front office is sitting on their hands. For the past 5 years, the Wild has been signing guys with unimpressive junior numbers and expecting them to develop in juniors or Iowa and sometimes even abroad. Of the Wild’s past 35 draft picks, 2 have played more than 10 games at the NHL level (Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin) and if we lower that threshold to at least 6 games in the NHL, the result is still just the same 2 players. This is the reason the Wild is plagued by bad contracts and minimal draft picks. The Wild are unable to identify or develop even average prospects and are paying through the teeth to keep the team on a successful track. Eventually, this strategy will come to haunt them and fans finally started seeing some of these effects this year. Jason Pominville’s horrifying first half, a goalie benched every day until the trade deadline, and a veteran Stanley Cup winning center being scratched in the playoff. The one bright spot may be Erik Haula, who is coming off a career best 34 points (28 of those coming after January 1st).

Hopefully, the Wild is working on a contract with Duke as we speak but the silence is deafening. The Wild is, however, expected to sign Chase Lang of the Vancouver Giants. Lang has 63 points this season in the WHL and tallied two goals and an assist in Iowa after his season ended. It’s possible the Wild believes these players to be too similar and is only choosing to sign one. Duke simply seems to be an easy, low risk, high reward, situation. The Wild should expect to pay him less than $700k on a two-way deal and if he ends up as a nobody they can easily hide behind the excuse of him putting up big numbers in the WHL. Why not take a chance on a young guy instead of over paying yet another aging veteran? These are the questions that the Wild and Chuck Fletcher should be asking themselves and they should be answered within the next couple weeks.